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Whither separation of powers?

By Josef Omorotionmwan

ON a matter of urgent public importance, we heartily congratulate the people of Ekiti State for showing a good example of how to behave in an election.

The gubernatorial contest there has been won and lost. What we thought was going to be battle-royal, has ended in a most amicable manner.

We knew it would come but we did not think it was going to be in our time that, an incumbent would lose at the poll, concede defeat and relinquish power to the winner without shifting the battle ground to the tribunals. By this singular example, Ekiti State has demonstrated that it is truly the fountain of knowledge. We salute you all.

One principal lesson from this is that there is still hope for a better Nigeria, the frightening glimpse from today’s main subject, notwithstanding.

We recollect, with nostalgia, those old days when the imperialists took us through lots of rigmarole in our educational pursuit. They took us through certificateless examinations. For instance, the Qualifying Test, QT, was intended to determine your level of preparedness to enter for the General Certificate of Education, GCE, ordinary level.

Today, we are returning briefly to the old days. Read carefully this passage taken, in extenso, from Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and answer the questions that follow:

88.-(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, each House of the National Assembly shall have power by resolution published in its journal or in the official Gazette of the Government of the Federation to direct or cause to be directed an investigation into:

a. Any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws; and

b. The conduct of affairs of any person, authority, Ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with the duty of or responsibility for –

i) executing or administering laws enacted by National Assembly; and

ii) disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be appropriated by the National Assembly.

The powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provisions of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to –

a. make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws; and

b. expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.

89.-(1) For the purposes of any investigation under Section 88 of this Constitution and subject to the provisions thereof, the Senate or the House of Representatives or a committee appointed in accordance with Section 62 of this Constitution shall have power to –

a.     procure all such evidence, written or oral, direct or circumstantial, as it may think necessary or desirable, and examine all persons as witnesses whose evidence may be material or relevant to the subject matter.

b.     require such evidence to be given on oath;

c. summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence at any place or produce any document or other thing in his possession or under his control, and examine him as a witness and require him to produce any document or other thing in his possession or under his control, subject to all just exceptions; and

d. issue a warrant to compel the attendance of any person who, after having been summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to do so and does not excuse such failure, refusal or neglect to the satisfaction of the House or the Committee in question, and order him to pay all costs which may have been occasioned in compelling his attendance or by reason of his failure, refusal or neglect to obey the summons, and also to impose such fine as may be prescribed for any such failure, refusal or neglect; and any fine so imposed shall be recoverable in the same manner as a fine imposed by a court of law.

2)   A summons or warrant issued under this Section may be served or executed by any member of the Nigeria Police Force or by any person authorised in that behalf by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the Hose of Representatives, as the case may require.

NOTE: In the course of carrying out its oversight functions, the House of Representatives stumbled into where the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, allegedly squandered a whopping sum of N10 billion in hiring taxis (air taxis). All efforts to prod further into this abnormality have hit brick walls. Like many other government officials before her, the Minister approached the court to ask for an order to prevent the House from investigating her. After the entire hide and seek, denials and counter-denials, just last week, she succeeded in slapping an order of perpetual injunction on the House of Representatives restraining it from the investigation.

QUESTIONS:

1. Can anyone still justify the continued existence of the National Assembly?

2.     What is the relevance of the ongoing talk-shop in Abuja? Why would we continue to indulge in the futile constitution-making process, particularly when the existing Constitution is not respected?

3. Even where Black Market Injunctions are injurious to the health of a democracy, they have virtually become a way of life in Nigeria. Discuss.

4.   The doctrine of Separation of Powers is merely a term in abstraction. It is not real and it has no place in Nigeria. Discuss.

GOOD NEWS: This is just another certificateless examination. You may keep your answer script to yourself. Per adventure your answer sheet is soft enough to be useful at the back of the house, good luck. But weep not for your country!

 


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